The New Frontier of Performance Marketing: Paid Social

It goes without saying that Facebook is faced with a myriad of issues heading into 2021: the as yet unknown full impact of the iOS14 tracking changes; ongoing rumbles over the future of Section 230 in the US, the hemorrhaging of WhatsApp users over privacy updates, and the accusations of abuse of monopoly powers in their acquisition of Instagram & WhatsApp, to name a few. That being said, when was the last time that Facebook’s future wasn’t threatened by seemingly insurmountable obstacles?

James Doig

Ultimately, Facebook’s user numbers and ad revenue continues to grow substantially YoY – even during a worldwide pandemic. The fundamental reason for this is simple, it offers value for your time as a consumer, and your advertising budget as an advertiser. And we see Facebook continuing to be an essential part of any brand’s marketing strategy.

The State of Social 

For social marketers, there were some silver linings to the torrid news cycle over 2020. Social platforms in general saw a huge surge in both time spent per user, and overall user volumes. Globally by the end of 2020, over 4.2 billion users were active on social media platforms, with 53 million in the UK alone. This will continue into 2021, with permanent new societal & purchasing habits formed amongst all demographics.

Social is no longer just a space for discussion and the sharing of personal content, it’s now an established channel for remarketing, prospective customer acquisition, and engaging existing customers to support retention. Despite this, it is still undeniably a form of push marketing, meaning it naturally occupies and operates in the earlier stages of the path to purchase.

As a consequence of its position, Paid Social is likely to see lower conversion rates than other digital marketing channels. Moreover, as many sales with a Paid Social touchpoint will get attributed to channels sitting in the conversion-focused part of the funnel, Social will often offer a lower immediate and less consistent ROAS. The imminent arrival of the iOS14 update and the subsequent changes to tracking will only serve to amplify these issues.

Performance Model 

So, we are left with a channel that has enormous potential in both performance and scale, but one that is rife with uncertainties around the future of tracking, reporting & optimization. With ongoing macro shocks and platform changes, operating at maximum efficiency and reacting quickly to changes is more important now than ever before. The solution? Operating on a performance-based model.

The key benefit of operating on such a model is that the risk is taken away from advertisers. Additionally, because the advertisers will only pay on successful transactions, our goals are directly aligned with theirs, namely drive as many conversions as possible.

So how do we deliver certainty in such uncertain times within a notoriously volatile channel? Ultimately, our approach is centered around a considered audience strategy, integrated creative approach and feed-based strategies which combine to create a truly cross-channel approach.

Audiences within Facebook require a dual approach. A granular approach to segmenting first-party data is key, identifying your highest performing previous customers, or seasonally relevant users (such as previous new season purchasers), and then feeding them into lookalike creation to ensure you’re targeting the strongest possible new users. However, granularity for granularity’s sake should be avoided when directly targeting audiences, as this only impairs Facebook’s optimization if they’re not being hit with tailored creative and/or copy.

As mentioned here, ensuring your creatives are aligned with your audience strategy is key. Identifying an audience of likely new season purchasers is pointless if you’re then going to hit them with discount-focused creative. Ensuring a seamless relationship between your creative & delivery teams is essential, with learnings & strategy passing bilaterally and across your media channels.

Maximizing on feed-based campaigns offers a huge scale of tailored creative and granular audiences across both dynamic prospecting and retargeting. These can be taken to the next level by combining targeting insights from Facebook’s data with your own first-party data, via custom labels indicating margin, stock, previous performance, and more.

All of this helps create a truly cross-channel & performance-driven approach that ensures consistently strong results alongside an optimal customer experience.

These strategies were all used to good effect on a recent campaign with Nobody’s Child where we drove a 450% YoY ROAS increase for Paid Social activity, with over 35% of revenue coming from new customer-focused campaigns. Explore the case study here: Switching to Performance with Nobody’s Child.


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